The days overlap and grow shorter, the leaves let go of their first purpose, and the geese make their way peacefully down south. Mother Nature is sending me signs that it’s time to slow down, but I still feel caught up in the summer whirlwind. After spending this past summer and fall schlepping myself from one province to another for work—all while adjusting to my new role as a mother—I can’t say that I’ve ever enjoyed the arrival of a November quite this much. While this end-of-year month is often maligned for its associations with decay and darkness, I see it as the ideal time for us to slow down, rediscover our vitality, and celebrate abundance simply.
Allowing yourself to slow down
A real dynamo, even while pregnant, I find myself saying yes far too often, getting bogged down by projects and activities that ultimately leave me feeling drained instead of energising me. My intrinsic FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to a social experience or work opportunity—an anxiety that’s exacerbated by the not-so-subtle societal pressure to always achieve more—often prevents me from listening to my own signs of fatigue. When I no longer have the energy to fully enjoy the experiences that do nourish me, I know that it’s time to say no to some of them—or at least to allow myself a bit of a break. This is the benchmark I use to gage when I need to initiate a slowdown.
While it's often said that we need to learn to say "no" to others, I believe that we first need to find the courage to say “no” to our own reflexes, those automatic habits that distract us from our real needs. As soon as we’ve made the decision to let go, it becomes easier to accept what we might “miss out on” because in the end, we gain something more. It’s a reflex we unfortunately don’t develop during our schooling or professional careers. The truth is, we’re rarely congratulated for giving up a task that’s too much for our schedule, or replacing an activity that no longer suits us with another—like swapping out a weekly 5 à 7 for a nature walk. And yet, on a physiological level, it's small achievements like these that should be celebrated: knowing how to listen to your body’s signals, making space for them, and responding to them in a way that will help you achieve better balance!
A refuge to restore health and vitality
When everything’s going too fast, I have pick-me-up places, or “buoy” spots, where I like to take refuge, such as the riverbank or the ocean. Despite surfing’s rising popularity in recent years making it more difficult to find a less crowded surf spot, the sport plays an essential part in my mental and physical balance. When the conditions aren’t right, I head to the beach for a breather. In the off-season, I enjoy quiet moments alone, contemplating the coastal habitat. The waves drown out my thoughts and a few gusts of salty air sufficiently soothe me. I wander aimlessly and let myself be distracted by gathering shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of seaweed.
For someone as performance-driven as myself, doing nothing is far from easy. At the beach, though, I’m able to find that calm. All it takes is a moment there—even if it’s just fifteen minutes—and I find I’ve regained my vitality. I admit it's a privilege to have access to such a rejuvenating place so close to home. But I think everyone can find their own buoy, whether it’s in the forest, in the garden, in one's own body while meditating or during a sporting activity, and so on. In short, a place where it feels like time stops so you can breathe out the mental and physical tensions that have been lodged in your body for too long.
Celebrating abundance in all its simplicity
At the end of each autumn season, I visit my family and friends in Sainte-Flavie in the Lower St. Lawrence region, where I grew up, to celebrate the abundance of the harvest over a no-frills meal. We don't wait for the Thanksgiving long weekend to get together; it’s the signs that the last few vegetables are ready to be harvested, and the mildness of the weather, that determine the right moment. Outside, my father cleans his gigantic carrots—the sweetest I've ever tasted—while my sister and her boyfriend, who are my parents' neighbours, pick the last vegetables of the season and prepare their organic vegetable farm for winter. In the field, the first snowflakes contrast with the deep green of the kale and edible flowers still standing despite the cold.
Back at home, my mother cooks the precious harvest. Canned goods have been weighing down the counter for weeks. It's almost the end of the chores. Cheeks reddened by the cold and fingernails still earthy, we sit down at the table to honour the earth's bounty. Worn out by our hectic summers, it's the beginning of an imminent slowdown for all of us.
My stomach full, I leave with a trunk full of root vegetables, apples, and pears. There’s enough to last me most of the winter! It’s an annual ritual that helps me prioritise what’s truly essential.
November becomes a month when I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel—a time to weed out the reflexes that keep up from living a healthy lifestyle, a time to find or rediscover our refuge, and, finally, an opportunity to celebrate the small, simple pleasures that enable us to meet essential needs in the real world and not artificial desires from the virtual one.